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Udall, Alexander Introduce Bipartisan Plan to Fulfill Commitment to Cold War Nuclear WorkersSalem-News.com
Bill Establishes an Independent Panel to Oversee Compensation Program, Add Transparency to Decisions Affecting Workers' Benefits
(KANSAS CITY) - Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) have reintroduced their bipartisan plan to create an independent advisory panel to help Cold War workers from Oak Ridge and other nuclear weapons facilities get the help they need to treat cancer and other illnesses they developed as a result of exposure to radiation. The panel would oversee the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, which has been plagued by procedural inconsistencies and delays preventing former nuclear workers from accessing the benefits they are owed.
Approximately 600,000 workers were unknowingly exposed to radioactive and toxic substances while employed at U.S. atomic weapons program facilities during the Cold War era. Because of this exposure, thousands of Americans now have developed debilitating -- and often terminal -- diseases. Despite this pressing need, thousands of workers have seen their benefits claims delayed for years, tied up in bureaucratic red tape. The Toxic Substances and Worker Health Advisory Board Act aims to correct this wrong.
"Workers at Rocky Flats and other nuclear facilities put their health on the line to preserve our national security during one of the most uncertain times in our nation's history," Udall said. "Our country made a commitment to these patriots, but so far that promise has not been kept. We cannot let another family suffer through the uncertainty of delays caused by red tape or see their loved ones denied the benefits they deserve. It's time for us to do right by these workers."
"Many Americans labored behind the scenes working with little-understood hazardous materials to build our nation's nuclear deterrent, and Tennessee has had more people – more than 14,000 – file claims for compensation than any other state," Alexander said. "This legislation would make the process easier for, and more accountable to, Tennesseans from places like Anderson and Roane counties who have made claims for compensation and deserve a voice in the process."
Congressmen Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) have introduced a companion in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Udall and Alexander have fought to recognize the significant contributions made by American nuclear workers and others who helped the United States win the Cold War. Earlier this year, they introduced a bipartisan resolution to designate October 30 as a national day of remembrance to honor the patriotism and sacrifice made by Cold War nuclear weapons workers.
Date October 17, 2006
To: Attendees of the Department of Labor Worker and Fonner Worker Roundtable Meetings
Subject: Summary of the October 4-5, 2006 Kansas City Plant Roundtable Meetings
Thank you for attending the Department of Labor's (DOL) worker and former worker roundtable meetings held in Kansas City, Missouri on October 4-5, 2006. The Department values your input as it strives to make the information in the Site Exposure Matrices as complete and as accurate as possible.
As promised when we met, attached is a summary of the meetings. The DOL is now working to verify the information gained from roundtable input. If you wish to provide additional information for consideration of use in the Matrices, you may do so by sending it to the DOL Denver Resource Center, 8758 Wolff Court, Suite 101, Westminster, Colorado 80031. The Center's toll-free number is (866) 540-4977 and its fax number is (720) 540-4976. 4848 Tramway Ridge Dr. NE, Suite 220, Albuquerque, NM 87111 TEL: (505) 323-7000 FAX: (505) 323-7007
U. S. Department of Labor, Energy Employees Occupational illness Compensation Program Minutes of DOL Site Exposure Matrices Roundtable Meetings, Kansas City Plant, October 4-5, 2006
Kansas City Plant workers and former workers attended Department of Labor (DOL) Site Exposure Matrices (SEM) roundtable meetings in Overland Park, Kansas on October 4-5,2006. In total, 130 workers and worker representatives from a cross-section of labor groups were invited. Twenty-two invitees attended the meetings. DOL Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC) representatives conducted each session. Attendees were reminded to not discuss any classified or potentially classified information in the meetings.
Work groups represented (self-identified; some individuals listed more than one job title, and some work groups had more than one attendee): carpenter, circuit fabricator, clerk, concrete finisher/cement mason (contractor), consultant, contractor employee, custodian, deburring, designer, drafting specialist, electrical/mechanical inspector, electron beam welding machine operator, electronic assembler, engineer, general machinist, gutter worker (contractor), HVAC worker, inspector, laborer, machine repair, machinist, maintenance, mail carrier, manager, millwright, Model Shop, OSHA instructor, painter, pipefitter, plastic fabricator, plastic lab machinist, process engineer, procurement, production fabricator, production worker, program manager, quality control, sand blasting, solder inspector, soldering, supervisor, tool & die maker, tool efficiency and maintenance, tool equipment maintenance, transportation, Union Officer, welder.
Plant areas represented by attendees (self-identified): Department 20, Department 22, Department 27, Department 29, Department 34, Department 38, Department 45, Department 47, Department 51, Department 55, Department 60, Department 64, Department 70, Department 90, Department 93, Department 95, Model Shop, Paint Shop, Plating Shop, Tool Room
Toxic substances identified by attendees: acetate, acetone, alcohol, aluminum, asbestos, asbestos heat resistant gloves, benzene, beryllium, beryllium-copper, beryllium oxide, bird droppings, boron, cadmium, carbon, carbon tetrachloride, cast iron, ceramic parts, clear machine coolant, cobalt, concrete, copper, copper-beryllium, Curing Agent Z, Epibond (thiocol polysulfide), etchant, ethanol, ethylene dichloride, explosive actuators, fiberglass, fluorine, formaldehyde, Freon, Genisol cleaner, graphite, green coolant, heating oil, Hyperchlor detergent, iron, ketone, lead, lead (powdered), machine coolant, mercury, methyl ethyl ketone (MEK), mold, natural gas, oils, paint, paint thinner, PCBs, perchlorethylene, pesticides (DDT), phosgene gas, pink coolant, Piperdine hardener, plastics, plating solutions, polyurethane, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), promethium, propane, radioactive sources, red foam, resin, rubber, sand blasting powder, shellac, silica (amorphous), solder flux, solvents, steel, thallium, Therrnanol heating oil (contained 12 PCBs), thorium, titanium, toluene, trichloroethane, trichloroethylene (TCE), tritium, uranium, vanadium, VCE, white lead.
Knowledgerrraining (self-reported): Some workers reported receiving little training prior to the late 1990s. The training that was provided largely dealt with security and industrial safety issues, e.g., safety glass use, proper glove use during handling of hot and/or sharp objects and safety shoes. Videos were sometimes used during weekly safety meetings; the effectiveness of these meetings was questioned by several attendees. Machinists reported receiving machine safety instructions, e.g., not to wear long-sleeve shirts when using machine shop tools, but no hazardous material training except how to put labels on chemical containers. Technical training was provided on topics such as soldering, machine use, and one person reported formal training as a Tool & Die apprentice. No worker reported having hazardous material training prior to the late 1990s. An electronic assembler stated that one-time lessons leamed training was provided following an explosion in the mid-to-late 1980s in which five firefighters were killed. Some positive comments were received: a plastics worker reported that he found training useful and another worker reported training on MSDS sheets and HazCom markings. Workers commented that the DOE need-to-know policy resulted in training being limited to only that necessary to get the job done.
A subcontractor worker reported receiving about two hours of orientation training when he started at the site in 1982. Another reported attending RAZWOPER classes and getting instructions in the mid-1980s on how to use ventilation systems.
Personal Protection (self-reported): Protection against toxic material exposure was described as ranging from no protection and the wearing of Tyvek/paper protective clothing during certain production operations, to limited use of respiratory protection. Uranium work in Department 22 was described as requiring use of company-provided clothing and shoes, and end-of-shift showering. A process engineer indicated that REPA vacuums were not used at beryllium machine tools until around year 2000. A machinist indicated that respiratory protection was Dot required during machining until 2000, and that it was routine practice for machinists to work in the same clothes they wore home. Another worker (not a machinist) reported use of respirators when working with beryllium. Use of goggles, gloves (leather, asbestos,rubber) and other PPE were mentioned as being used on certain jobs. Workers recalled use of respirators during painting and concrete sawing in the 1980s. Installation of ventilation systems was reported by one worker as occurring in the mid-1960s. Local ventilation (suction hoses) were used in some fabrication areas.
Sampling (self-reported): Most workers either did not mention area/personal/other sampling or said none was done. Beryllium testing/sampling started in the 1990s and sampling during asbestos remediation was performed (start date unknown). Uranium monitoring was performed in Department 22. Some workers reported receiving periodic chest X-rays and submitting urinalysis samples.
3 Unusual Events. Several unusual events and practices were described by attendees: spills of unspecified materials were frequent; trucks hauled materials without covers, allowing dispersion of the hauled substances; trash trucks picked up garbage from process areas with free liquids, spilling the unknown liquids on aisle ways inside the facility; hazardous materials were found in trash dumpsters; an area to the east of Department 20 was shut off to access in the late 1980s due to chemical fumes; a promethium incident (undated); a Department 27 ductwork fire in the early 1980s; a 1986-87 explosion that killed five firefighters; a 1970s explosion involving drums on substances; and cleanup of unknown materials from an employee parking lot. Smoking and drinking were permitted in machining areas. Other events included fumes from chemical spills (unknown substance) in Departments 93 and 95 that resulted in shop door installation in the late 1980s. A "pit" used in the back of the plant was dug up and the sludge/material shipped offsite. One worker described jumping on various types of "chips" of unknown material to pack them into barrels. Another worker reported contracting "Teflon poisoning" around 1970 when working over the ovens in Department 64. A worker reported a chemical reaction when an unknown chemical was placed in a large Department 47 dip tank and an aluminum part was inserted. Wooden floors that absorbed chemicals were reported to have been used in several areas of the site. PCB drippings were described as being present throughout the plant. Use of Agent Z was reported to have turned worker badges and walls of the workplace yellow. Mold growth was reported in the plant cafeteria (undated). A section of PCB-carrying pipe west of Department 95 was reported (undated).
Written information: A few documents were provided during the meetings. Workers suggested potential sources of information about Kansas City operations, including Process Waste Assessments conducted in the late 1990s; MSDS sheets; beryllium surveys; production "travelers". Attendees were requested to provide any available written materials not presented in the meetings to the Resource Center for reproduction.
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